Title: James Harlan to Walt Whitman, 30 June 1865
Date: June 30, 1865
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914), 3:471. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Oscar Lion Papers, 1914–1955, New York Public Library, New York, N.Y
Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00222
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, and Vanessa Steinroetter
Department of the Interior,
Washington, D. C.,
June 30th, 1865.
The services of Walter Whitman of New York as a Clerk in the Indian Office will be dispensed with from and after this date.
James Harlan, Secretary of the Interior.1
1. James Harlan (1820–1899), secretary of the interior from 1865 to 1866, dismissed Whitman from his second-class clerkship on June 30, 1865. Harlan apparently took offense at the copy of the 1860 Leaves of Grass which Whitman was revising and which he kept at his desk. With the help of William Douglas O'Connor and Assistant Attorney General J. Hubley Aston, Whitman secured a position in the attorney general's office. The Harlan episode led directly to O'Connor's pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet." Although Harlan was a Methodist, he was not a parson. Whitman may have sarcastically applied this term to Harlan because on May 30, 1865, Harlan had issued an official directive asking for the names of employees who disregarded "in their conduct, habits, and associations the rules of decorum & propriety prescribed by a Christian Civilization" (Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion [College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1978], 57). [back]